Five Best Friday Columns
Laura Secor says Obama should meet with Rouhani, Ann Friedman on the new American masculinity, Paul Krugman on "crazy" Republicans, Caroline Freund thinks women are the key to banking progress, and Matt Yglesias hates Best Buy.
Laura Secor at The New Yorker thinks President Obama should meet with Iran's president. Secor argues that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani "has staked everything on resetting Iran’s foreign policy." While former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was "cartoonish," Obama now has a chance to take Rouhani's diplomatic appeal seriously. Of course, the situation in Syria threatens to throw off any diplomatic relations — "if the United States uses force in Syria, it will be politically very difficult for Rouhani to restrain his right flank and pursue dialogue" with the U.S. So hopes for a handshake between Rouhani and Obama are "big" and "fragile," but Secor thinks it would be a great start to bridge what up until now has been an "unbridgeable divide" between the two countries. Reza Marashi, the research director at the National Iranian American Council, thinks Secor's plea is "great."
Ann Friedman at New York hails the struggle to define masculinity in America. Friedman argues that "America is finally getting around to having the conversation about what it means to be a man that, decades ago, feminism forced us to have about womanhood." She uses "recent data points" like Bryan Goldberg's Bustle p.r. disaster and Esquire's "Life of Men" project to show that now men are "increasingly defined by both playing to and against type." Hanna Rosin trumpets the "end of men," but what's really happening, according to Friedman, is the end of the traditionally-defined man. And that's a good thing. Troy Patterson, the "Gentleman Scholar" columnist at Slate, likes Friedman's use of the term "brohemian."
Paul Krugman at The New York Times is convinced that Republicans have gone crazy. Krugman admits he's being "shrill," but he insists that "the G.O.P. seems to have transitioned from being the stupid party to being the crazy party." With Obamacare "hysteria" and government shutdown on the horizon, Krugman confirms that today's political climate is unusual. He acknowledges that some blame Obama for not keeping the troops in line —"Why can’t he sit down with Mr. Boehner the way Ronald Reagan used to sit down with Tip O’Neill?" But Krugman points out, "O’Neill didn’t lead a party whose base demanded that he shut down the government unless Reagan revoked his tax cuts, and O’Neill didn’t face a caucus prepared to depose him as speaker at the first hint of compromise." Dan Froomkin, a former liberal Washington Post columnist who's now launching his own media organization, recommended the piece.
Caroline Freund at The Washington Post asks where the women are in central banking. Now that Janet Yellen is the frontrunner to be the next Fed chair, Freund, who used to work at the Fed, asks why it's taken so long to have a female chief. Speaking globally, she writes, "women may still not be part of the tight-knit clubs from which central bank heads are chosen." The European Central Bank, for example, has no women on its executive board. The Fed has two. Bad bank performances could be due to "groupthink mentality" — appointing qualified women could correct this problem. Simon Johnson, who was the chief economist at the International Money Fund, calls the piece a "must read."
Matt Yglesias at Slate says Best Buy "deserves to die". The seemingly-doomed electronics store has managed to up profits, but Yglesias argues that "it doesn’t have the best prices, it doesn’t have the best selection, and it doesn’t succeed on the level of customer service." Basically, customers can find just about anything for a cheaper price on Amazon, and the Best Buy staff isn't helpful enough to account for the price difference. The store hasn't done anything to deserve its "good fortune." Jason Bailey, a film critic and Atlantic contributor, calls the criticism "spot-on." Jeffrey Young, a health care reporter at The Huffington Post, notes Yglesias takes these kinds of positions often: "Companies @mattyglesias hates: Best Buy; Roy Rogers. Companies @mattyglesias likes: Amazon; Walgreens."